13/09/2016
Share this story Share on Facebook icon Share on Twitter icon Share on Pinterest icon Share on Google Plus icon Share on Linked In icon Share via Email icon

The forgotten Beatles tour of Scotland 1960

9bd81055-37fe-469e-968b-511e2697cd7b

In 1960 Johnny Gentle toured Scotland with John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison, who would later become the Beatles. As The Beatles: Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years is released in cinemas, we revisit our interview with Johnny…

In 1960 singer Johnny Gentle toured Scotland with young musicians John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison, who would later become the Beatles.

Original interview published in Scottish Memories magazine.

Even legendary musicians have to start somewhere, and while most fans of the fab four are aware of their stint in Germany before they found fame, few know that George Harrison, John Lennon and Paul McCartney played a tour of Scotland with Sixties heart-throb Johnny Gentle at the start of the decade they would later help define.

Liverpool-born John Askew found fame after winning a talent contest in London and was soon signed to Philips Records. Two singles followed as the 1960s began and before long the newly named Johnny Gentle was setting off on a tour of Scotland with a bunch of Liverpool lads.

‘Larry Parnes, my and Billy Fury’s manager, negotiated tours of Scotland with booking agent Duncan McKennon for most of Parnes’ artists to do a tour of several dance halls scattered around Scotland,’ Johnny told Scottish Memories. ‘Rather than send backing groups from London he arranged to audition Liverpool groups. It was arranged that the Beatles would back me.’

Johnny Gentle tour with the Beatles, 1960

  • 20 May - The Town Hall, Marsh Hill Alloa
  • 21 May - The Northern Meeting Ballroom, Church Street, Inverness
  • 23 May - Dalrymple Hall, Seaforth Street, Fraserburgh
  • 25 May - St Thomas’ Hall, Chapel Street, Keith
  • 26 May - The Town Hall, High Street, Forres
  • 27 May - The Regal Ballroom, Leopold Street, Nairn
  • 28 May - The Rescue Hall, Prince Street, Peterhead

First show with John, Paul and George

Meeting their temporary lead singer an hour before the first show, the musicians struggled through the performance, as Johnny explains. ‘We sent the Beatles my repertoire about two weeks before the start of the tour so they could practice… The first night could have been better so we rehearsed all the next day and the second night was much better. They were a real fun bunch of lads.’

In just a few years the two guitarists and bass player would become household names but in May 1960, they were just teenagers, John and Paul were eighteen and George was just sixteen. ‘We did socialise after the shows and got to know each other quite well being cooped up in a van travelling from one gig to another. I knew then that John Lennon was an unusual guy who was very curious about the London showbiz scene and I did think that they should try their luck in London. At that time he seemed more serious than having a wicked sense of humour.’

Memories of the Beatles

Since that memorable tour Johnny’s career has been dominated by his link to the Beatles. ‘I never imagined how big and how good the boys would become,’ he says. ‘Had I known I would have kept a diary of everything about the tour and wish I had taped the shows we did.’

Despite not keeping a better record of the few weeks he spent with the trio, Johnny has a website and has written a book about his Scottish tour. He still has plenty of wonderful memories of the time.

‘Shortly after the tour I visited the boys in Liverpool and watched them doing a gig across the Mersey at a dance hall in Wallesey on the Wirral,’ he says. ‘When I walked into the hall John spotted me, announced me to the audience and invited me up to the stage to do a song. We ended up doing the whole set we did on the Scottish tour. I had several tours of Scotland after the Beatles tour and requested my manager get me the Beatles for my second tour but they were already booked to go to Hamburg in Germany. The rest is history!’

Other superstars that Johnny met included Eddie Cochran. 'I was on the show with him at the Bristol Hippodrome the night he was killed. The unfortunate thing was he asked me if I could give him, Sharon Sheeley and Gene Vincent a lift to Heathrow as they were going back to the USA that morning. Unfortunately I had a car full so had to refuse. I often think if a had room and could have given him a lift how different it could have been if he hadn’t needed to get a hire cab. This cab then went on to crash.’

Johnny’s career continued after the tour with more singles released, before he joined The Viscounts, but he will always be remembered for that legendary tour of Scotland that gave three Liverpool teenagers valuable experience for their world-changing careers.

Watch the trailer for the 2016 film below…

Back to "Memories of Scotland" Category

13/09/2016 Share this story   Share on Facebook icon Share on Twitter icon Share on Pinterest icon Share on Google Plus icon Share on Linked In icon Share via Email icon

Recent Updates

Carolina Nairne was born - On this day in history

Lady Carolina Nairne was born on 16 August 1766.


Sir Walter Scott was born - On this day in history

Scottish author, playwright and poet Sir Walter Scott was born on 15 August 1771. Find out more on our pages ...


Ocean Liners: Speed and Style - new exhibition at the V&A Dundee

The 'golden age' of ocean travel will be reimagined at a new exhibition, which will explore the design and ...


The story of the Hamilton Tolbooth - 1642 to 1954

The town of Hamilton in South Lanarkshire had a beautiful, landmark tollbooth, which over the years served as ...


Other Articles

King Robert III was born - On this day in history

King Robert III of Scotland was born on 14 August 1337.


Fugitive slave featured in Edinburgh Fringe musical discovered to have visited Scotland with his own show

The cast of a new Edinburgh Fringe musical have discovered that the fugitive African American slave whose ...


Sir William Craigie was born - On this day in history

Scottish lexicographer Sir William Craigie was born on 13 August 1867.


Malicious mischief? New National Records of Scotland exhibition tells the story of women's suffrage in Scotland

A new exhibition by National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh brings together records of the suffragettes and ...